Friday, March 26, 2010

Making Marks

Storytellers speak, journalists type, and academics agonize and struggle to justify every word. All wrestle with personal demons, distractions, and defeats. A writer’s approach, as informed by attitude and artistic adjustments, seems shaped by training and experience.

Reporters learn form first, then learn how to fill it in efficiently. Fiction writers tend to learn form last, if at all. This is an interesting contrast revealing emphasis. What is important to each kind of writer, and reader? In reporting, facts are paramount. In fiction, a range of considerations apply, from character and plot to theme and meaning, from social milieu to social commentary, from atmosphere to voice and tone.

If reporting is like taking photographs, fiction writing is more like drawing freehand.

Smarter artists sketch from life. They use models, even set up tableaux, or work from photographs and reference trips. They introduce as much that’s real as possible. In this way they can get on with the job at hand and not have to waste time researching how shadows fall on such a complex figure, or which position a limb might be in after a fall. They have what they need before them, having assembled their materials beforehand as they work toward a known goal.

Other artists work in other ways.

Some simply put pencil to paper and make it up, letting lines and shadings flow straight from imagination onto paper.

Some shape squiggles and doodles into what ever their eye discerns emerging from the chaos.

Some capture the outlines and fill in details only as needed, even as others block in general shapes and rely on impression more than texture or nuance.

Then there are the adventurous who explore other mediums, from pastels and colored pencils to acrylics, oils, and even collage or modeling clay.

The important thing is making marks. Cartoons or words, put then on paper. That gives you something to work with, raw material with which to fashion a work of art that might just please others and, if you’re really lucky, last the ages.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ploughshares War

“If they pounded their swords into ploughshares, they’d just pick up the plow blades and hit you with them.” -- John Shirley in conversation.


Most news reports said something close to this: “Vice President Joe Biden was sandbagged by Israel’s hard-right, proving once again Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is not interested in seriously addressing the Palestinian problem except through genocide.”


To sandbag means to hinder progress, as if by tying bags full of sand onto someone’s legs.

Obstructionism, in short. Endless talk of no substance toward no end, intended to stave off action.

This is the same strategy the Republican party has chosen toward President Barak Obama, both as a person and as a President. Block any and all proposals he may make, even if he takes them verbatim from GOP proposals. Threaten to filibuster if anything nears a vote. Lie shamelessly and without cessation. Sacrifice anything and everything as long as it frustrates Obama or his policies. Nothing is out-of-bounds or off-limits, nothing is held back. It is all-or-nothing culture war.


A general lack of substance to counter the Democrat’s proposals leads to such a strategy.

Same as Israel. Can anyone in all conscience defend genocide? Can anyone in all conscience defend profit over people? Untenable positions lead to extreme coverups.

All the craziness we’ve seen on both fronts is nothing but a smokescreen with which guilty parties hope to mask their indefensible crimes.

Won’t and doesn’t work.

But having Ploughshares Wars is the humanoid primate’s way. Weapons don’t matter, only aggression.

Rather than swords to ploughshares we need to find a way to change ourselves toward peace, light, and love. Remember that trio? Can you think of it without cringing or sneering or mocking or laughing aloud?

If you can’t, the Republican and Likud parties will welcome you with open arms. And hidden blades.

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